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For rent

Housed in the old Pepperell Mill complex in Biddeford, Maine, the new Saco River Dyehouse will take up a small section of over 1,000,000 square feet of old mill. (Imagine!). At first glance, the space looked depressing and cavernous. The windows had been filled in with brick, the flourescent overhead fixtures buzzed, the paint was peeling, dusty old filing cabinets and chairs filled the entire space. Ugh.

Still, around the corner in another wing, one could see potential.

At one time, this mill employed hundreds of workers. Powered by the Saco River, the first mill, a seven-story wooden structure built in the early 1820′s, was the largest in the country. The company employed hundreds of workers, mostly single young women who left their rural beginnings for town and a factory job. According the local museum, protecting these young workers, newly arrived from the country and unfamiliar, with urban life was a civic concern.

Picture it. The ‘room’ above was chock full of looms. Instead of a vast open space, every inch housed a piece of equipment or a person. And the windows from floor to 20′ ceiling provided all the light. The windows were spaced 8′ apart and on sunny days in the summer, the light coming through must have been a trial for crowded workers. Winters, the sun pouring through probably provided most of the heat that wasn’t generated by those same bodies.

In the early 1830′s the original mill burned down. But shortly after, a new, larger, brick building was constructed, and the company, impressively, processed cotton from plant through fabric–mostly colored plaids that were unique in the industry. By mid-19th century, immigrants from everywhere came to Biddeford to work in the mills–this one and others in the area. The current sleepy town was at that time a bustling small metropolis.

Don’t know about you, but I love the history that comes with our new dye house. I’m searching out some then-photos, will post them soon.



15 Responses to “For rent”

  1. It’s magnificent. How exciting for you.

  2. Dorothy says:

    Good on you all for doing this. A nice Labor Day bit of reading!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    The photo of the ancient floor is great; it really makes you think about all the activity over the years. My husband grew up in Saint John, NB, and drove south through Biddeford many times as he was growing up. At that time, Atlantic Canada probably had more interaction with New England (called “the Boston states”) than with central Canada. He remembers Maine as the land of milk and honey (and Hershey bars).

  4. meppybn says:

    What a story you’ve uncovered – and just think, what you are doing is now a part of the history of Pepperell Mill too!! :) :)

  5. Nancy J says:

    I will enjoy following your progress and the stories/pictures of old that go with it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Suzanne says:

    I can almost hear the walls talking…

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Best news I can think of!

  8. Nancy says:

    How exciting that the space will be used for a new textile endeavor, one which will probably be a lot more fun for the participants than the original one.

  9. So much potential. What a great space.

  10. tracey says:

    Amazing space!!! Am I the only one that wants to put on roller skates or get a bicycle and run around the space?

  11. Charles says:

    Have you thought about running a KickStarter to fund the new dyehouse? I just completed a very successful KS campaign that not only raised all the money we needed but also doubled our audience. It’s a fantastic tool.

  12. Karen M. says:

    Hooray! I will be able to order the yarn for my Bumble hat, it the original and vintage colorways soon.

  13. admin says:

    Yes–we’re very much thinking about a kickstarter campaign. We need to get a new, super efficient boiler–big, impressive, and very expensive. I may get in touch with you for kickstarter pointers…

  14. Melissa says:

    I am so stoked for you all! As I have been reading the past posts, I wondered what you would do and to see how this road has led you here is proof that things work out in ways we can not begin to predict. They also take us to places we might never have gone. What a beautiful new adventure steeped in rich history. I can not wait to hear and read more!

  15. Sherrie Tarpley says:

    Love you blog and your patterns!

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